AMD G-series SOC was released in March this year and offers major improvements compared to previous low power processors from AMD. The operating temperature range is extended for use in embedded systems. Error correcting code, ECC is introduced in memory. CPU, GPU and I/O controller is integrated into one single chip.
The processor ships today. Customers have been particularly positive towards one aspect, according to Dr. Kamal Khouri, Director of Embedded Systems Product Management & Marketing at AMD.
“It’s scalability. Our customers can build the same board and have an application that runs on 6 watts, at low performance, all the way up to 25 watts with extremely high performance,” he says.
The figures mentioned are the Thermal Design Power, TDP for the alternatives with lowest power consumption/performance and highest ditto in the family of AMD Embedded G-Series SOCs. The power consumption figures for the six processors in the family are decided by their individual clock frequency, the number of CPU cores, and the DDR3 memory speed. In reality the 6W processor seldom exceeds 3W to 4W. The processors are pin compatible allowing the scalability that Dr. Khouri is talking about. “The customer only has to build and verify the hardware and software once,” he says.
Well worth noticing is that it’s already decided by AMD to keep the next generation of low power processors pin compatible with the existing generation of AMD Embedded Systems G-Series SOCs. This means that the customer’s products will benefit from a performance boost simply by switching to the new generation processors in existing designs. Major changes will not be necessary.
The 9W version in the AMD Embedded Systems G-Series SOC family is offered specified for an extended operating temperature range of -40°C to +85°C. The 6W version is excluded from having that optional feature for a reason. Feedback from customers was that applications that required an extended operating temperature range often also needed an increased graphics performance. The level of graphics performance required implied the use of the 9W processor. However Kamal Khouri means that 9W TDP in practice is considerably lower.
”Like I mentioned before, sometimes customers find that a specific application runs at half that, 4.5 watts. So we felt that the 9 watt processor can cover a wide range of customer applications without having to provide the 6 watt alternative in an extended temperature range.”
Targeting additional markets
Target markets for AMD Embedded Systems G-Series SOC are for instance industrial tablets, digital signage and industrial control/automation. The support for an extended operating temperature range has created an interest among companies developing outdoor applications. Routers to be mounted on top of telephone poles are one example. Auto infotainment is another market that will benefit from the extended temperature specification.
ECC is sometimes an imperative requirement in applications like aviation, trains and data communication with particularly strict safety demands. ECC prevents up to 2-bit errors in data in memory. Applications requiring ECC has previously typically used costly solutions such as high-end processors or discrete on-board logic.
“Now they get ECC in a much smaller form factor and at a more competitive cost,” says Kamal Khouri.
Additional improvements compared to previous AMD Embedded Systems G-Series APU (CPU and GPU) include increased cache memory size and support for DisplayPort and dual independent HDMI ports. The graphics engine is the Radeon HD 8000-Series and USB 3.0 is supported. The maximum number of CPU cores is four and that’s one of the reasons for the increased memory speed of the DDR3 memories, up to 1600MHz.
”It’s extremely important to keep those four cores working and data coming to them so that they don’t idle and not do work.”
One chip solution more cost effective
Dr. Kamal Khouri means that the fact that the processor is a one-chip solution affects not only the footprint of the platform and supposedly the size of the end product, but also cost. One chip in this generation will cost less than two in the previous one. He also argues that development cost is reduced from decreased complexity when the CPU, GPU and I/O controller is already integrated in the AMD G-series SOC. Heat dissipation is most probably easier and less costly to solve when the number of hot spots are reduced.
“Those things all add up to reduced overall embedded system cost for the customer.”
Hectronic offers a Qseven module based on AMD Embedded G-Series SOCs. The first versions of the H6069 module is based on the AMD Embedded G-Series GX-210HA SOC which uses a dual core CPU, 1.0GHz clock frequency and has a power consumption of 9W TDP. Early access samples will be available to key OEM customers December 10, 2013. Versions of H6069 specified for operation in an industrial temperature range (-40°C to 85°C) are planned for introduction in March, 2014.